Estimates vary, but it is widely believed that between 500,000 and one million Canadians suffer from an eating disorder. The disease can affect people of any age, gender, race, income level, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation.
An even larger number of Canadians suffer from negative body image and unhealthy weight management practices. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), some 70% of women and 35% of men are dieting at any given time. Dieters may have a higher risk of developing an eating disorder.
Certain eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia) do affect women more than men; however, binge eating affects men and women equally.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) reports that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. Between 10% and 20% of individuals with anorexia die within 10 years.
The annual death rate associated with anorexia is 12 times higher than that of all causes combined for females between the ages of 15 and 24.
The average lifetime duration of bulimia is more than 8 years.
While the onset of the disease can occur at any age, eating disorders typically begin in adolescence or young adulthood.
Eating disorders are the most common chronic illness of female adolescents, but the incidence of eating disorders in young men is increasing.
Seventeen percent (17%) of female students and eight percent (8%) of male students in BC high schools suffer from severely disordered eating.
The 2002 Project Eat study of 5,000 teens revealed that more than 50% of girls and 33% of boys engage in unhealthy weight control behaviours – including fasting, vomiting, laxatives, skipping meals, or smoking to control appetite.
One 2008 study revealed that even among grade nine students of normal weight, 19% believed they were too fat, and 12% were attempting to lose weight.
Another study of nine-year old girls revealed that up to 40% have dieted to lose weight—even when they were at a normal weight.